The Ground War for Control of Public Space

My partner stumbled on the quote below attributed to Banksy (wikipedia), the English street artist who many consider to be one of the great a modern day satirists.

It’s an interesting take on advertising in public space – for some it will be a familiar call to arms, to others it will feel revolutionary. I find it particularly interesting given the age of customized advertising is coming our way. One of the big questions we’ll soon be asking is, to what degree can a company target an add, to you specifically, in a public space.

Some people find customized Google ads to be eerie, whereas I find them useful, and frankly, understand them to be part of the social contract I accept when I use Google. But using Google is a choice. Walking down a public street and suddenly being hit by an ad that is customized for me? One I did not even implicit ask to see… I don’t know how I feel about that yet. It may feel helpful. But it may feel deeply invasive.

However, I know how Banksy is going to feel. And he’s got some powerful points.

By the way, if you have not seen the documentary about/by Banksy entitled Exit Through the Gift Shop it is very, very much worth catching. It’s on Netflix for those who have it (Which by the way, has a decent documentary film selection).

Here’s the Banksy quote. It’s all over the internet, but I’ve yet to find an attributing link, which would have been nice.

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are “The Advertisers”and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.”

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